July 5th – The Fat Triathlete
I know from the word go that this will be my most controversial blog, but nevertheless here I go.
As a triathlete and runner, I am constantly thinking about fuel…. energy…. recovery…. I train up to 13hours per week, mostly intense cardiovascular exercise, pushing myself to the limit time and time again. I make sure to take in protein post exercise to aid recovery. I know to take on board carbohydrates when I feel myself ‘dipping’ into the “empty” zone, and I know that a little bit of fat is good for you.
Then why is it, when I look in the mirror, all I can see is ‘the fat triathlete’?
Last year, I lost a stone in weight. I felt faster, fitter, leaner, hotter….better than I’ve ever felt, but my word it was difficult. I ate a very bland diet, often skipping meals entirely, or having just some boiled broccoli for dinner. I somehow managed to fend off my cravings for chocolate, cakes and treats and resist late night snacks, all for the goal of achieving that lean athletic figure. I miss that Lisa. She had will power.
It’s crazy, because I have so much mental focus in other aspects of my life. My training is 100% focussed. My career has never been more on focus. So why can’t I keep this part together?
Since moving to the States, I know I’ve put back on that weight, hopefully not a stone, but not far off I don’t think. A number of factors contributed to this: living in a hotel and eating out a lot, astronomical portion sizes, hidden calories (I now realise that ‘healthy’ in the US is maybe not the same ‘healthy’ Im used to in the UK), loneliness, stress, fatigue……comfort eating.
I don’t want to hear the “but you’re not fat” or the “it’s just the transition” or “Lisa, you need the fuel and calories” because for anyone who’s ever looked in the mirror and hated what they saw, the last thing they want is someones opinion. They want change, they want a difference, they want to look in the mirror and be happy with what they see. This is a subject I do not like to talk about… image. And the main reason I feel I can talk about it on here is that this is a faceless diary if you will. The other reason is that, if I, as a semi-pro athlete (I have won money in some races so can probably say semi-pro?), who exercises several hours per week, eats healthily, is not classed as ‘overweight’ according to BMI or body fat percentage figures, feel this way about weight, image and food, how many others do?
Just yesterday, I read an article about how Jessica Ennis was said to be carrying excess weight – I mean that’s ridiculous – and Triathlete Hollie Avil, suffered an eating disorder after feeling pressure from coaches to lose excess weight. This doesn’t make me feel any better about myself, my image or my weight, but at least I know I’m not alone. And as I said before, I DO NOT want to have any sympathy comments relating to this posts, or worried/concerned comments because I will not be satisfied or happy until I am returned to, or have achieved a leaner, athletic figure.
I am disappointed with myself, because I will now go into the 70.3 Ironman, my debut at this distance, as ‘the fat triathlete’ and have nobody to blame but myself. Who knows, this may work to my advantage as no-one ever expects the underdog, or underpig as I feel just now, to come out on top, so maybe I’ll surprise them and myself.
I will however, be vigilant in my diet of lean meat, vegetables and WATER (and coffee), eating enough to fuel and no more.
I wish there were a magic wand, or a secret exercise plan to achieve my goal but the bottom line is that its simply hard work and WILL POWER. Careful diet AND exercise are what will achieve your ideal physique, not one without the other.
So, before you judge me or pity me or whatever your views on this post may be, please take a moment to respect that how you feel inside is (how I feel inside) cannot be changed by ANYONE BUT ME.
I will get there, it’ll just take some more blood, sweat and tears.
You seem to have done a thorough job of preventing most obvious comments (reassurance, advice, sympathy, etc.) So, just a quote I like:
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Put down that stupid book!
Some of it is up to you.
But some of it is also from external influences which you are never going to be able to control completely, like stress from work for example, or how much cream the chef uses when you go out to dinner, or the weather on training days, or someones car alarm interrupting your sleep and leaving you tired the next day or a million other things.
But some of it is from external influences that you can control. That list includes things like, ordering the creamy sauce in the first place, or clearing a too-big portion on your plate just because it is good manners, or your training programme, or another million things.
That stupid book is in category 3. It puts ideas into your head that are based on one man’s failure to understand basic scientific principles and his marketing plan to sell you his scam. Either put it down, or at the very least go back and read the first chapter and ask sensible questions of what is written in it. It starts from a position where it looks at super-athletes and says that they are great at their sport BECAUSE they are thin (and he actually dismisses any athletes that don’t fit his model). This is utter bollocks. These athletes are great at their sport because of genetics and training and diet, being lean/thin is a consequence of those three things, not the cause. Everything in his book follows on from that and is built on that crap idea. It pushes you to look at your body image, and your weight and body fat numbers in a completely warped and ridiculous way.
I totally relate to this post, Lisa – and I know you don’t need anybody to tell you that you’re not fat, etc, etc….but as someone who also trains hard 10-12 hrs/week, and still qualifies for the athena category, I understand where you’re coming from. And, it is partly my fault – I dont have to drink beer and eat chicken fried steak, but it seems like, with the amount of work I put in, I should be able to!!! This is not a self-esteem issue or any of that garbage, but I try to eat healthy for the most part – my diet is actually pretty good, but it seems that, in order to really lose any weight, I would have to limit myself to 1500 calories/day AND still train as hard as I do. Its frustrating!!! Love your blog – very cool. Hope we can go for a ride or something someday (although you would have to slow down a little for me) 🙂